Friday, June 24, 2016

11 Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon

In the Clouds Socrates introduces his deity as ‘heavenly Clouds, great goddesses to men of leisure (ouraniai Nephelai megalai theai andrasi argois).’ In Aristophanes’ comedy Socrates presented the Clouds as goddesses that ‘feed most sophists (pleistous hautai boskousi sophistas, 331), prophets (Thouriomanteis [Dover explains: ‘The Athenian foundation of Thurii (446 and 443) was no doubt an occasion of much divination and prophesy]), craftsmen in medicine (iatrotechnas) … dithyrambic poets (kukliȏn te chorȏn aismatokamptas), astrological quacks (meteȏrophenakas); doing nothing (ouden drȏntas), they feed them idle(boskous’ argous), for they write poetry about them (hoti tautas mousopoiousi, 331-3)’. In response, Strepsiades cites a number of dithyrambs expressions focused on Clouds and similar meteorological phenomena, concluding: ‘so in reward (eit’ ant’ autȏn) they gorged (katepinon) great slices of good fish (kestran temachȇ megalan agathan), and meat of chosen birds (krea t’ ornitheia kichȇlan, 338-9).’ – Socrates: ‘Because of the Clouds (dia mentoi tasd’), not justly so (ouchi dikaiȏs, 340)?’

Leisure was central to Socrates’ conception of good life; the term he used was scholȇ, for argia – derived as it is from ergon ‘work’, ‘deed’ ‘action’, qualified by the privative alpha – means ‘idleness’. Plato emphasizes the difference between the two in the Phaedrus. After Phaedrus has read to Socrates the oration in which Lysias pleaded for sex without love, and Socrates presented a rival speech in which he denounced love focussed on sexual intercourse as detrimental to intellectual, moral, and physical excellence, and then presented the palinode in which he developed the notion of Platonic love as the key to happiness, Socrates asked: ‘Then what is the nature of good writing and bad (Tis oun ho tropos tou kalȏs te kai mȇ graphein)? Is it incumbent on us (deometha ti [‘ought we’]), Phaedrus (ȏ Phaidre), to examine Lysias on this point (Lusian te peri toutȏn exetasai), and all such as have written or mean to write anything at all (kai allon hostis pȏpote ti gegraphen ȇ grapsei), whether in the field of public affairs (eite politikon sungramma) or private (eite idiȏtikon), whether in the verse (en metrȏi) of the poet (hȏs poiȇtȇs) or the plain speech of prose (ȇ aneu metrou hȏs idiȏtȇs)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘It is incumbent! (Erȏtas ei deometha [‘You ask whether we ought to?’]) Why, life itself would hardly be worth living save for pleasures like this (tinos an oun heneka k’an tis hȏs eipein zȏȇi, all’ ȇ toioutȏn hȇdonȏn heneka [‘what would anyone live for, so to speak, if not for such pleasures as these?’]): certainly not for those pleasures (ou gar pou ekeinȏn ge) that involve previous pain (hȏn prolupȇthȇnai dei ȇ mȇde hȇsthȇnai), as do almost all concerned with the body (ho dȇ oligou pasai hai peri to sȏma hȇdonai echousi), which for that reason are rightly called slavish (dio kai dikaiȏs andrapodȏdeis keklȇntai).’ – Socrates: ‘Well, I suppose we can spare the time (Scholȇ men dȇ, hȏs eoike).’ (258d7-e6, tr. R. Hackforth)

Here I must interrupt Hackforth’s Socrates, for his ‘Well, I suppose we can spare the time’ stands for Socrates’ Scholȇ men dȇ, hȏs eoike. Christopher Rowe’s ‘We have plenty of time, it seems,’ is better, but even he misses the meaning of the Socratic scholȇ, which is here introduced, the point of which is emphasized by the emphatic and by ‘hȏs eoike, ‘as it seems’, both of which refer to Phaedrus’ enthusiastic readiness to embark upon the theme that Socrates has suggested. It is because of Phaedrus’ enthusiasm that Socrates can say ‘There is then scholȇ, as it seems’, and then continue: ‘and I think too that the cicadas overhead, singing after their wont in the hot sun (kai hama moi dokousin hȏs en tȏi pnigei huper kephalȇs hȇmȏn hoi tettiges aidontes) and conversing with one another (kai allȇlois dialegomenoi), don’t fail to observe us as well (kathoran kai hȇmas). So if they were to see us two (ei oun idoien kai nȏs) behaving like ordinary folk (kathaper tous pollous) at midday (en mesȇmbriai), not conversing (mȇ dialegomenous) but dozing lazy-minded under their spell (alla nustazomenous kai kȇloumenous huph’ hautȏn di’ argian tȇs dianoias), they would very properly have the laugh of us (dikaiȏs an katagelȏien), taking us for a pair of slaves (hȇgoumenoi andrapod’ atta) that had invaded their retreat like sheep (sphisin elthonta eis to katagȏgion hȏsper probatia), to have their midday sleep beside the spring (mesȇmbriazonta peri tȇn krȇnȇn heudein).’ (258e6-259a6, tr. Hackforth)
In Plato’s Theaetetus, summoned to the King’s Office to face the charges raised against him, Socrates contrasts philosophers, who have always scholȇ, who are always free to pursue their activities, bent on discovering what truly is (an monon tuchȏsi tou ontos, 172d9), with rhetoricians who don’t have free time (scholȇ). Let me quote a few lines from Socrates’ long eulogy on scholȇ that begins at Theaetetus 172c and goes on to 176a2: ‘Philosophers always have (tois men touto aei paresti) plenty of time (scholȇ) … the others, on the contrary (hoi de), are always short of time when they speak (en ascholiai te aei legousi), because they are hurried by the clock (katepeigei gar hudȏr reon).’ (172d4-e1, tr. McDowell)
Socrates secured scholȇ for himself by the way he lived. Xenophon narrates that the sophist Antiphon came to Socrates with the intention of drawing his company away from him (Antiphȏn pote boulomenos tous sunousiastas autou parelesthai proselthȏn tȏi Sȏkratei), and spoke thus in their presence (parontȏn autȏn elexe tade): “Socrates (Ō Sȏkrates), I supposed (egȏ men ȏimȇn) that philosophy must add to one’s store of happiness (tous philosophountas eudaimonesterous chrȇnai gignesthai). But the fruits you have reaped from philosophy are apparently very different (su de moi dokeis t’anantia tȇs philosophias apolelaukenai). For example, you are living a life (zȇis g’oun houtȏs) that would drive even a slave to desert his master (hȏs oud’ an heis doulos hupo despotȇi diaitȏmenos meineie). Your meat and your drink (sita te sitȇi kai pota pineis) are of the poorest (ta phaulotata) … and you never wear shoes or tunic (anupodȇtos kai achitȏn diateleis).” To this Socrates replied (Kai ho Sȏkratȇs pros tauta eipe): “Antiphon, you seem (Dokeis moi, ȏ Antiphȏn) to have a notion (hupeilȇphenai) that my life is so miserable (me houtȏs aniarȏs zȇn), that I feel sure (hȏste pepeismai) you would choose death in preference (se mallon apothanein an helesthai) to a life of mine (ȇ zȇn hȏsper egȏ). Come then (ithi oun), let us consider together (episkepsȏmetha) what hardship (ti chalepon) you have noticed (ȇisthȇsai) in my life (t’oumou biou). Is it that those who take money (poteron hoti tois men lambanousin argurion) are bound (anankaion estin) to carry out the work (apergazesthai touto) for which they get a fee (eph’ hȏi an misthon lambanȏsin), while I (emoi de), because I refuse to take it (mȇ lambanonti), am not obliged to talk (ouk anankȇ dialegesthai) to anyone against my will (hȏi an mȇ boulȏmai)? Or do you think that my food is less wholesome than yours or less nourishing (ȇ tȇn diaitan mou phaulizeis hȏs hȇtton men hugieina esthiontos emou ȇ sou, hȇtton de ischun parechonta)? … Seeing that I am always training my body to answer any and every call in its powers (eme de ara ouk oiei tȏi sȏmati aei ta suntunchanonta meletȏnta karterein), do you not think that I can stand every strain better than you can without training (panta raion pherein sou mȇ meletȏntos)? For avoiding slavery to the belly (tou de mȇ douleuein gastri) … is there any more effective specific (oiei ti allo aitiȏteron einai) than the possession of other and greater pleasures (ȇ to hetera echein toutȏn hȇdiȏ), which are delightful not only to enjoy (ha ou monon en chreiai onta euphrainei), but also because they arouse hopes (alla kai elpidas parechonta) of lasting benefit (ȏphelȇsein aei)? And again (kai mȇn), you surely know (touto ge oistha) that while he who supposes that nothing goes well with him (hoti hoi men oiomenoi mȇden eu prattein) is unhappy (ouk euphrainontai), he who believes (hoi de hȇgoumenoi) that he is successful (kalȏs prochȏrein heautois) in farming (ȇ geȏrgian) or a shipping concern (ȇ nauklȇrian) or any other business he is engaged in (ȇ all’ hoti an tunchanȏsin ergazomenoi) is happy in the thought of his prosperity (hȏs eu prattontes euphrainontai). Do you think then (oiei oun) that out of all this thinking (apo pantȏn toutȏn) there comes anything so pleasant (tosautȇn hȇdonȇn einai) as the thought: ‘I am growing in goodness (hosȇn apo tou heauton te hȇgeisthai beltiȏ gignesthai) and I am making better friends (kai philous ameinous ktasthai)?’ And that, I may say (egȏ toinun), is my constant thought (diatelȏ tauta nomizȏn). Further, if help is needed by friends or city (Ean de dȇ philous ȇ polin ȏphelein deȇi), which of the two has more leisure (poterȏi hȇ pleiȏn scholȇ) to supply their needs (toutȏn epimeleisthai), he who lives as I am living or he whose life you call happy (tȏi hȏs egȏ nun ȇ tȏi hȏs su makarizeis diaitȏmenȏi)?”.’ (I. vi. 1-9, tr. E. C. Marchant)
In Xenophon’s Symposium each symposiast tells what he knows best, what he is best in. When Antisthenes is asked ‘what do you take pride in (epi tini mega phroneis)’, he replies: ‘In wealth (Epi ploutȏi).’ Asked whether he had a lot of money (ei polu eiȇ autȏi argurion), he swore that he did not have even a penny (ho de apȏmose mȇde obolon). (III. 8) Asked how it is that with such slender means (pȏs houtȏ brachea echȏn) he bases his pride on wealth (mega phronei epi ploutȏi), he replied: ‘Because (hoti), sirs, I conceive (nomizȏ ȏ andres) that people’s wealth and poverty are to be found not in their real estate (tous anthrȏpous ouk en tȏi oikȏi ton plouton kai tȇn penian echein) but in their hearts (all’ en tais psuchais ‘but in their souls’) … But the most valuable parcel (pleiston d’ axion ktȇma) of my wealth (en tȏi emȏi ploutȏi) I reckon (logizomai) be this (einai ekeino), that even though some one were to rob me of what I now possess (hoti ei mou tis kai ta nun onta pareloito), I see no occupation so humble (ouden houtȏs horȏ phaulon ergon) that it would not give me adequate fare (hopoion ouk arkousan an trophȇn emoi parechoi) … And it is worth noting (axion d’ ennoȇsai) that wealth of this kind makes people generous, also (hoti kai eleutherious ho toioutos ploutos parechetai). For Socrates (Sȏkratȇs te gar houtos), from whom (par’ hou) I acquired this wealth of mine (touton ektȇsamȇn), did not come to my relief with limitation of number or weight (out’ arithmȏi oute stathmȏi epȇrkei moi), but made over to me all that I could carry (all’ hoposon edunamȇn pheresthai, tosouton moi paredidou) … But (kai mȇn kai) – most exquisite possession of all! (to habrotaton ge ktȇma) – you observe that I always have leisure (tȇn scholȇn aei horate moi parousan), so that I can go and see (hȏste kai theasthai) whatever is worth seeing (ta axiotheata), and hear (kai akouein) whatever is worth hearing (ta axiakousta) and (kai) – what I prize highest (ho pleistou egȏ timȏmai) – pass the whole day, untroubled by business, in Socrates’ company (Sȏkratei scholazȏn sundiȇmereuein).’ (IV. 34-44, tr. O. J. Todd)

Let me end this entry on the Socratic scholȇ, caricatured by Aristophanes as argia, with Socrates in Plato’s Apology. Found guilty, Socrates is to propose a just penalty: ‘What shall I propose on my part (egȏ de dȇ tinos humin antitimȇsomai), O men of Athens (ȏ andres Athȇnaioi)? Clearly (ȇ dȇlon) that which is my due (hoti tȇs axias) … I did not go (entautha men ouk ȇia) where I could no good to you or myself (hoi elthȏn mȇte humin mȇte emautȏi mȇden ophelos einai); but where I could do privately the greatest good (as I affirm it to be) to everyone of you (epi de to idiai hekaston iȏn euergetein tȇn megistȇn euergesian, hȏs egȏ phȇmi), thither I went (entautha ȇia), and sought to persuade every man among you (epicheirȏn hekaston humȏn peithein) that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests (mȇ proteron mȇte tȏn heautou mȇdenos epimeleisthai prin heautou epimelȇtheiȇ, hopȏs hȏs beltistos kai phronimȏtatos esoito), and look to the state before he thinks to the interests of the state (mȇte tȏn tȇs poleȏs, prin autȇs tȇs poleȏs); and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions (tȏn te  allȏn houtȏ kata ton auton tropon epimeleisthai). What shall be done to such a one (ti oun eimi axios pathein toioutos ȏn)? Doubtless some good thing (agathon ti), O men of Athens (ȏ andres Athȇnaioi), if he has his reward (ei dei ge kata tȇn axian tȇi alȇtheiai timasthai); and the good should be of a kind (kai tauta ge agathon toiouton) suitable to him (hoti an prepoi emoi ‘suitable to me’). What would be a reward suitable (ti oun prepei) to a poor man (andri penȇti) who is your benefactor (euergetȇi), and who desires leisure (deomenȏi agein scholȇn) that he may instruct you (epi tȇi humeterai parakeleusei)? There can be no reward so fitting as maintenance in the Prytaneum, O men of Athens (ouk esth’ hoti mallon, ȏ andres Athȇnaioi, prepei houtȏs hȏs ton toiouton andra en prutaneiȏi siteisthai) … And if I am to estimate the penalty fairly (ei oun dei me kata to dikaion tȇs axias timasthai), I should say that maintenance in the Prytaneum is the just return (toutou timȏmai, en prutaneiȏi sitȇseȏs).’ (36b3-37a1, tr. B. Jowett)

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